Thursday, 4 October 2012

Advice For Travellers

Peter Langston
Poet and international traveller
After two days at the home of Sue's generous sister Mandy and brother-in-law Joel and their cute kids Ava and Jack, we climbed aboard a Qantas Link Dash 8 on our last leg(s) for home. Literally climbed aboard, after a short walk across the tarmac and exposure to a warm spring day, we climbed the stairs, banged our heads on the obstacle placed there specifically for the purpose and strapped ourselves in.

It was a quick trip - about 45 minutes - barely enough time to gulp down a cup of warm tea and sugar-loaded slice, which even the kids in front of me refused to eat. Then we were down and I was kissing the hallowed ground of home - literally did bend down and give the tarmac a peck. The boys met us, hugs were exchanged and instead of going to the house, we went to town for the mochas we had been missing for two months. Its a priority thing.

We spent the afternoon unpacking and remarking on the small things in our life - things you suddenly notice when they have stopped being familiar. Dinner was with the boys and dutiful Jacqueline Fraser, who identified herself as one of the loyal followers to have read every post on this website during our journey. There is probably treatment for this but I'm afraid we may have made her addiction worse by showing photos from the trip.

We eventually slipped into our wonderful bed at 11:00pm and sank quickly into blissful sleep which remained uninterrupted until a decent hour this morning.

It has been an amazingly fulfilling eight weeks for my roomie and I. Quite apart from the things we have seen, the people we have met, the myths we have debunked and the stereotypes we have exposed for their lack of perception, we have closed a gap between us that my illness opened as long ago as the early 1990's. As these eight weeks have been so life affirming, I feel its important to pass on the key lessons we have learned from our time away. Please take them under advisement:
  • when crossing Abbey Road, you gain an eerie closeness to John Lennon, especially when the #189 bus screeches to halt a metre away as you stand frozen waiting for a photo;
  • Mediterranean beaches are the best places to get stoned;
  • don't try and spell Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch. Just go there ... its quicker;
  • red necks would rather eat scones than photograph a poet's grave;
  • in terms of fashion, almost anything goes in Paris but DVT compression stockings and shorts is a look you might want to reconsider;
  • don't trust directions from a local when you have diarrhea; 
  • Guinness;
  • when the crash comes, the rich get poorer and the poor die;
  • if your pin number doesn't work, don't ask the old lady who doesn't speak English while she is using the ATM;
  • if you think you can dance like Michael Flatley, you probably can't, despite six hours of drinking;
  • "Under The Bridge At Avignon" is my hat;
  • if you walk into an "Aussie Bar" in the south of France, festooned in number plates, flags and pictures of Australian icons, don't be surprised if they don't speak English, don't sell Aussie beer and appear to have no interest in your nationality;
  • if you drink with a roomful of Irishmen you will have no idea why they are laughing at you;
  • the four strangest people you'll meet in your life will be on the Paris Metro ... most likely at the same time;
  • don't go into the Monte Carlo Casino and ask for "tokens for the pokies";
  • if you are late for the bus, don't run heroically for three kms and gasp "please, wait for my wife!" and turn to find her right behind you; 
  • when shown the grave of Princess Grace, don't say "Princess who?";
  • Crocodile Dundee becomes hilarious in French;
  • three out of four B & B's won't be strange;
  • never say "what else could go wrong";
  • don't become famous or pigeons will shit on you;
  • most people look stupid in a bright green Loch Ness Monster hat ... except your wife;
  • even if you "like" her LNM hat, you won't be allowed to buy a cape;
  • bus truth is like folklore: everyone believes it, even though its obviously untrue;
  • changing seats on the bus is like grandma farting - you blame someone else but everyone knows whose fault it is;
  • if you don't want to cry in public, don't go and see Blood Brothers;
  • time lost in a pub at lunch is an afternoon you won't care about;
  • don't put important documents in a safe place because you won't think to look there;
  • when trying on a new hat, don't leave your beanie on the floor;
  • don't turn left;
  • dress up when you go to Harrods;
  • Peter Sellers' characterisation of Inspector Clouseau is entirely accurate;
  • just because something looks bizarre, sounds bizarre and acts bizarre doesn't mean its not normal ... but most likely its bizarre;
  • I didn't see anyone I knew at Picadilly Circus, unless Ronald McDonald counts;
  • not all Germans are weird ... just the ones we met;
  • its not a real argument, its not your gold ring, there is no deaf/mute school and you have less than thirty seconds to avoid a confrontation when someone ties a string on your finger;
  • soldiers in black berets carrying automatic weapons don't smile;
  • "you can't chip out of a German bunker";
  • Alaine is unknown in Corbie
  • expensive champagne can still be bought by the bottle with a chip packet full of change;
  • never say yes to a question asked in another language
This, I believe.

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